Thursday, April 1, 2010

From leaf to metal...

Many of you have asked me how this:

turns into this:

Last summer, a friend commissioned me to make a candle lantern as a wedding gift. I had never worked on anything that large, and so I decided to document the process in pictures. Basically, it's the same process I use for making the Forest Floor jewelry.

I pick the leaves as I walk on our property during the summer and fall. They're pressed and dried between sheets of blotting paper and stored in large frames built for me by a friend. When I want to print the leaves onto metal, first I arrange them on a sheet of copper or sterling silver:

Once I have them arranged to my liking, I run the metal and leaves through a rolling mill.

The intense pressure of the rollers captures even the most delicate veins in great detail. The leaves are destroyed in the process, so every piece is completely one of a kind.

After washing the leaves and sap off the metal, I decide on the general shape for the piece. This usually involves using my jeweler's saw to create detail along the edges, and in the case of the lantern, piercing holes for the light to shine through.

Next, I file the rough edges.

Here are the six panels for the candle lantern laid out in order:

and after the liver of sulfur patina had been applied:

For the lantern, I "stitched" the panels together with sterling silver wire. This technique resulted in a flexible but sturdy construction and a rustic look.

And finally, lights out:

Such a fun project; I learned a lot while making it. And I hope you've enjoyed seeing how leaves give their shape (and spirit) to metal.


  1. Wow, great post! I have been wanting to see how you do that for a long time :)

  2. Great craftsmanship! Would be neat to combine our work sometime. Looks like you have endless design options.
    Great post and content. Definitely look forward to more content like this!

  3. Thanks so much, y'all. Praise from fellow artists is especially sweet. And Troy, I'd love to collaborate. I've wanted to incorporate wood into my jewelry ~ as well as move a bit beyond jewelry ~ so I see lots of possibilities.

  4. Thanks for sharing this! It is wonderful how the metal picks up all those details.

  5. Thanks for visiting! I just popped into your studio site and am looking forward to exploring a bit more. Gorgeous work there.

  6. Actually, we visited your site together. You put great textures in your work and I really like your “how too” explanation of the process. Thanks for your comment on my bowl and vase. You should try working on larger forms and making a bowl is a good place to start.

  7. Great idea!!! to make a design of natural leaf in a jewelry. These design look beautiful.

  8. Thanks for posting this! This is the first tutorial anywhere on the web I've been able to find on this technique and I haven't found any videos or books although I've seen a number of artists selling jewelry they have made this way. The little bits and pieces I have heard about doing it suggest that there are some tricks to getting an imprint that is crisp with no distortion and not too faint.

    How do you prevent the leaves from turning brown when drying them by the time you put them through the rolling mill. I would think they'd be too brittle and that they'd crumble before you could transfer the image to metal.

    Also, how much pressure is necessary to get this right?

  9. By "blotting paper" do you mean Kleenex? or do you mean tissue paper like what is sometimes used inside gift boxes?

  10. What awesome creations! Creative genius.